Authors: Blake Crouch Jordan Crouch
Blake Crouch & Jordan Crouch
From newcomer Jordan Crouch and Blake Crouch, author of the runaway bestseller
, a chilling, gothic thriller in the classic tradition of
The Sixth Sense
TRAPPED INSIDE A HOUSE
On a crisp autumn evening in 1980, seven-year-old Grant Moreton and his five-year-old sister Paige were nearly killed in a mysterious accident in the Cascade Mountains that left them orphans.
WITH A FRIGHTENING POWER
It’s been thirty years since that night. Grant is now a detective with the Seattle Police Department and long estranged from his sister. But his investigation into the bloody past of a high-class prostitute has led right to Paige’s door, and what awaits inside is beyond his wildest imagining.
OVER ANYONE WHO ENTERS
His only hope of survival and saving his sister will be to confront the terror that inhabits its walls, but he is completely unprepared to face the truth of what haunts his sister’s brownstone.
Thirty-One Years Later
You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.
“How much longer, Daddy?” Grant Moreton asks from the backseat of the ’74 Impala. The boy catches a glimpse of his father’s eyes in the rearview mirror. They aren’t angry or even stern. Just tired and sad—the way they’ve looked for the past year.
“We’re five minutes closer than the last time you asked. Do you remember how long I said it would be then?”
“That’s right. So what’s twenty minus five?”
Grant glances over at the girl with braided pigtails sitting beside him. He is two years older than Paige, but his five-almost-six-year-old sister already understands math in a way he never will.
“What is it?” he whispers. “What’s the answer?”
“No cheating,” their father says. “Your sister helps out too much with your homework as it is.”
Grant stares through the window as he tries to calculate the answer. There are mountains out there, but nothing to see at this time of night beyond the occasional glint of light from a distant house or a passing car.
On the radio: game six of the World Series. The Phillies are on the brink of beating the Kansas City Royals and the roar of the crowd comes like white noise through the speakers.
Grant feels a thump on the side of his leg. He looks over. Paige leans in, whispers, “It’s fifteen.”
He glances at the rearview to make sure their father hasn’t noticed this treason.
“Fifteen,” he says.
“You sure about that?”
Grant shoots her a sidelong look.
She responds with an almost imperceptible nod.
“That’s right. Nice job, Paige.”
Grant flushes with embarrassment, but in the mirror, his father’s eyes are gentle.
“No worries, kiddo. That’s what sisters are for.”
Jim Moreton rolls down his window and flicks his cigarette outside. Grant glances back, watches it hit the pavement in a spray of sparks.
A sharp chilled blast of Douglas-fir fills the car.
They ride on in silence listening to the game.
Through the windshield, the road ahead of them winds, steadily climbing, the double yellow emerging out of nothing into the burn of the headlights.
The boy rests his head against the window. He shuts his eyes and retrieves the square of fabric from his pocket. Brings it to his nose. Breathes in the smell of his mother’s nightgown. If he closes his eyes, he can almost pull the scene together, the way it should be—her in the passenger seat, his father’s arm stretched across the back of her headrest. Grant is having a harder time picturing her face lately without help from a photograph, but the timbre of her voice retains sharper and truer than ever. If she were in the car right now, she’d be talking over the game. Playfully arguing with Jim about the volume of the radio, how fast he was driving, the graceless way he slingshots the car through each hairpin turn. Grant opens his eyes, and even though he knows she won’t be there, the shock of the empty seat still registers.
Just fifteen minutes until we’re there
More than a year has passed since their last visit to the cabin, and so much changed it’s like the memory belongs to someone else. They had driven up into the Cascades in the middle of summer. Their family place backed up to a small pond that stayed cold even through July. They’d stayed a month there. Days fishing and swimming. Hide-and-seek in the groves of hemlock that surrounded the property. The cold nights spent reading and playing games by the fireplace. It had been his and Paige’s job every afternoon to gather sticks and fir cones to use as kindling.
Everything about that summer is so clear in his mind. Everything except for the little boy, because
had a mother and Grant doesn’t and it hurts to remember.
“All right, here we go,” Jim Moreton says, turning up the volume on the radio, the crowd-roar swelling. “Bases loaded. Come on, Phillies. Willie’s got nothin’.”
Grant has no idea who his father is talking about, just knows that he’s done little else but watch baseball this last, awful year.
“My ears hurt, Dad,” he says.
“Mine too,” Paige echoes.
Grant’s father opens the center console and fishes through its contents until he finds an old pack of spearmint gum.
“Chew this. It’ll help.”
He passes two sticks back to the children.
A moment later, he forces a yawn and unwraps one for himself.
“Pay attention, guys,” he says through a mouthful of fresh gum. “You’ll remember this game one day.”
As a man, Grant will know everything there is to know about this game. It will assume an epic aura, in particular these final moments, this last at bat—Tug McGraw throwing to Willie Wilson, Phillies up three, but the bases loaded—Kansas City one swing away from total defeat or the comeback of the century.
Years later, Grant will watch the last strike on a videotape. See Willie Wilson swing and miss, thinking how strange it is to know what was happening to that ’74 Impala, to his father, his sister, himself, on a remote highway in Washington State at the exact moment Tug threw his arms into the air and danced off the pitcher’s mound, a World Series champion.
Riding in the backseat of the car as the world waits for the final pitch, Grant sees the headlights fire to life a sign on the side of the highway.
But the pitch never comes.
There is no end to the game.
Grant is trying to slide the patch of his mother’s nightgown back into his pocket when Paige screams. He looks up, a wall of blinding light pouring through the windshield. As the tires begin to screech, he’s thrown violently against his sister who crashes into the door. The last thing he sees is the guardrail racing toward them, glowing brighter and brighter as the headlights close in.
The violence of the bumper punching through is cataclysmic, and then the noise drops away.
No sound but the revving engine.
Tires spinning like mad and nothing underneath them.
Grant’s stomach lifts with the same weightless ache he experienced the time he rode a roller coaster.
The radio is still on, the airwaves now riddled with static.
The play-by-play announcer, whose name Grant will one day learn is Joe Garagiola, says, “The crowd will tell you what happens.”
Paige says, “Daddy?”
Their father says, “Oh shit.”
• • •
Grant opens his eyes.
The engine is hissing and the tires still barely spinning—above him.
The Impala is inverted. The radio gone silent. One headlight is busted; the other blazes intermittently. Through the fractured windshield, he sees the beam shining into an upside-down forest where mist lingers between the tall, straight trunks.
An image that will haunt him to the end of his days.
He calls out to his father.
Jim Moreton doesn’t answer. He’s crumpled into the steering column, the side of his face gleaming with blood and sparkling with bits of glass.
He is so terribly still.
Grant looks over at his sister. Like him, she hangs by her lap belt. Grant reaches down, unfastens his, and falls onto the ceiling, crying out as a flare of pain rides up the bone of his left leg.
Tears stream down his face.
His head throbs.
She groans. He’s lying under her now. Reaching up, he takes hold of her hand and gives it a squeeze.
“Paige, can you hear me?”
It’s too dark to see if her eyes are open.
“What happened?” she asks quietly.
Something wet is dripping on his face.
“My chest hurts.”
“It’s okay, Paigy.”
“It hurts really bad. Why are we upside down? Daddy?”
“He’s hurt,” Grant says.
Her voice kicks up an octave. “Daddy?”
“It’s gonna be okay,” Grant says, though he has no idea if there’s even a shred of truth to the statement.
“I want my daddy.”
“He can’t hear you right now, Paige.”
“Is he dead?”
That possibility hasn’t occurred to Grant until this moment.
“Touch him,” she cries. “Make him answer.”
Grant turns his attention to the front seat. His father is upside down, still buckled in, a string of blood dripping from the corner of his mouth onto the roof. The boy reaches out, touches his father’s shoulder.
His father makes no response.
Grant strains to hear if he’s breathing, but the noise of the spinning tires and the hiss of the dying engine make it impossible to tell.
“Dad,” he whispers. “Wake up.”